Dickinson Research Extension Center


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Collaborative Research

Dickinson Extension Research Center facilitates and collaborates with multiple research teams and projects. DREC has the facilities and competencies to support research through provision of logistics and expertise.


Impact of Shale Oil Development - Felix Fernando, formerly with the DREC (Dickinson Research and Extension Center), now with the University of Dayton - Ohio, and Jon Stika, DREC Soil Health/GIS/Horticulture Specialist have a paper titled: "Impact of Shale Oil development on Agricultural Land: A GIS Analysis of Land Use Changes" that has been accepted for presentation as part of the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society and the first annual Energy Impacts Symposium in Columbus, Ohio in July 2017.


From 2005 to 2013, western North Dakota experienced a rapid increase in shale oil drilling, fueled by high oil prices and hydraulic fracturing technology. Similar increases in activity occurred in other shale oil and gas plays throughout the United States. The majority of these shale plays are located near rural communities that are predominantly agricultural based. However, no study has examined the change of land use from agriculture to energy because of shale oil development. In addition to agricultural land such as cropland and rangeland, other land use types such as woodland and wetlands have also been converted to oil well pads and associated infrastructure.

Based on an analysis of 3,592 well pads located in six western North Dakota counties of the Bakken shale, this exploratory GIS study examines the impact of shale oil development on cropland, rangeland, woodland, and wetlands. The six counties examined in the study accounts for about 80%-90% of the oil and gas produced from the Bakken shale play. The study further analyses the impact of these land use changes on soil types designated as prime and important farmland.

The study findings exemplify the extent of land use changes, policy implications, and the efficiencies of siting multiple wells on a single pad site. The total acres of cropland, rangeland, native woodland, and wetlands converted to oil well pads and associated infrastructure in the study area were 12,500.37, 10,670.88, 154.7, and 578.2 respectively. Average number of wells per pad in the study area was 2.89, while on average 2.23 acres of land was used per well.

Implications of the findings on well pad siting policies will be presented and discussed. Examination of oil well pad sitting on cropland and rangeland indicate potential improvements to siting policies that minimizes the effect on agricultural operations on those plots of land. Examination of oil well pad siting on wetlands indicate potential improvements to sitting policies that minimizes the effect on wetland fragmentation and integrity. These findings will be discussed in detail using supporting visual data. 


Soil & Community Health Agriculture Education Site - Located on CHI St. Alexius Health land immediately south of the DREC.

Dust Research Projects: Increased shale oil industrial activity has caused a significant increase in oil related traffic in rural gravel roads designed for light travel. The increased traffic in these gravel roads generates a considerable amount of dust that presents potential road safety hazards, public health issues, and a quality of life concerns. Below is a summary of collaborative research projects that focuses on impacts of increased dust.


Project Title: Quantification of Road Dust and its Effect on Soil
PI: Dr. Shafiqur Rahman, Associate Professor, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, NDSU
Co-PI: Dr. Kris Ringwall (Director, DREC),  Dr. Bernhardt Saini-Eidukat (Associate Professor, Geosciences, NDSU),
          Dr.Larry Cihacek (Associate Professor, Soil Science, NDSU)
Location of project: Manning Ranch, DREC

Overall goals and objectives
The overall goal of this project is to quantify road dust emission, especially PM2.5 and PM10 concentration, in western North Dakota due to road traffic in the oil development area. Specific objectives are:
i) Quantification of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration
ii) Quantify elemental composition of the dust
iii)Quantify dust impacts on roadside soil quality and elemental composition of soil

Project summary:
Two sites were selected at Manning Ranch. Both dust and soil samples have been collected at different months. Dust samples were brought back to the lab for composition and dust emission quantification. Dust characterization was conducted using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). Soil samples were analyzed using the Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) for elemental composition. Preliminary results of the study will be available soon.

Quantification of Road Dust and its Effect on Soil Final Report


Project Title: Road Dusts: Their Abatement and Impact on Human Health
PI: Dr. Jack Norland (Natural Resources Management Program, NDSU)
Co-PI: Dr. Christina Hargiss (Natural Resources Management Program, NDSU), Dr. Thomas DeSutter (Soil Science Department, NDSU), Dr. Mark Strand (Pharmacy Practice Department, NDSU)
Graduate Student:Kayla Graber (Natural Resources Management Program, NDSU)

Overall goals and objectives
1) Investigate  road dust abatement using magnesium sulfate and oil-well production water (aka “brine”) at 1x and 20x concentrations
2) Quantify the dust loading on control and abated sites
3) Quantify the chemical constituents of road dust at control and abated sites
4) Determine how the sodium-rich brine impacts gravel road clay binders
5) Conduct a systematic review with the focus of determining the human health effects of fugitive dusts

Project summary
What follows is a summary of Yr 1 activities: 1) the road dust abatement materials were applied mid-July 2015 on three separate road sections; 2) dust samplers were installed prior to road dust abatement at 4 different distances from the road and dust collection will continue until late October 2015; 3) dust collected is being processed and will be sent for laboratory analysis; 4) brine and road materials have been collected for future laboratory analysis on road binders; and 5) systematic review was organized to determine the make-up of the road dust/fugitive dust to which people in the affected regions are exposed, and the potential health risks of those components. Preliminary results of this project will be available soon.


Project Title: Fugitive Dust Impacts on Plants and Landowner/Citizen Perceptions of Bakken Development
PI: Devan Allen McGranahan (Assistant Professor, Range Science, NDSU)
Co-PIs: Gary A. Goreham (Professor, Sociology and Anthropology, NDSU), Aaron Daigh (Assistant Professor, Soil Science, NDSU), Joel K. Ransom (Extension Agronomist - Cereal Crops, Department of Plant Sciences, NDSU) and Dr. Craig Whippo (Dickinson State University)
Graduate Student: Jonathan Spiess

Overall goals and objectives
1) Determine dust’s area of impact and the relationship between dust and plant performance in the field
2) Increase understanding of community perceptions of issues relating to energy development impacts

Project Summary
Biological component
The following data have been collected in the first field season:

  • Various plant performance parameters along transects perpendicular to roads
  • Dust deposition with marble pan passive samplers along transects perpendicular to roads
  • Several samples from road surfaces and adjacent fields to track chemical dust suppressants
  • Airborne concentrations for particulate matter sizes of concern to animal and human
  • health
  • Traffic counts and environmental data to contextualize passive sampler results
  • Preliminary data on wheat productivity along transects perpendicular to roads

Sociological component
We conducted one focus group each in Williston, Stanley, and Watford City as originally proposed. Data from focus groups were used to parameterize a mail survey, which has been completed.

Fugitive Dust Final Report

Project Title: Characterization of Road Dust in Western North Dakota
By: Danijela Ljepoja, M.S. Student, Environmental and Conservation Science Program.
Please find the powerpoint presentation of the project below.




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